After six months of chasing starts in the United States, its culmination could be as expected as it was disappointing.
After scraping through the first stage of Korn Ferry Tour qualifying, Sydney’s Justin Warren advanced through second stage to make the Q-School Finals, where status on the predominant pathway to the PGA Tour was the carrot on the end of a relatively short stick.
That week went about as poorly as it could, yet Warren has returned to Australia buoyant about the state of his game and is ready to win on the PGA Tour of Australasia for the first time.
Warren will start the 36 hole Murray Open at Murray Downs Golf Resort on Thursday as a tournament favourite. His prodigious length is an advantage on a layout far more open than the majority found along the Murray River.
He has spent the past week working with coach Gary Barter at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney and is adamant that he is a better and stronger player from his time in the States.
“I’m just so keen to keep playing golf,” said Warren, who had back-to-back top-five finishes in February, including a runner-up finish behind Bryden Macpherson at the Moonah Links PGA Classic.
“I’m still carrying a bit of momentum from Q-School. Obviously, I’m trying to forget about the final stage, but I still feel like I’m in a position where I can play well over the summer.
“I’m just looking forward to playing some more four-round tournaments and trying to get a win.”
The first of six tournaments in the NSW Open Regional Series, the Murray Open provides a connection to a tournament that has been integral in Warren’s development.
He first qualified as an 18-year-old in 2013 and, when he finished tied for 27th a year later, found the belief that he could forge a career as a professional golfer.
“I played quite well in 2014 and that really kick-started my dream to play professional golf,” said the now 26-year-old.
“It’s an important tournament for me. I’ll most likely be in the US next year but I’ll be doing everything I can to get back and play the NSW Open.
“Along with the national open your state open always carries a lot of significance and it’s certainly a tournament I hope to win at some point in my career.”
Although he missed out on full status at Korn Ferry Tour Q School, Warren intends to return to the US early in the new year and attend qualifying for the early events in South America.
Good results early could lead to a more certain schedule as the year progresses and he knows he will return to America a more complete player for his experience in 2021.
“Final stage was a disaster of a week. Six months on the road caught up with me,” Warren explained.
“I was exhausted and that was at the end of three months where I was just winging it.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get home, I didn’t know if I was getting on a flight, I was playing tournaments very last minute trying to work out what I was going to do.
“I can’t put into words how much better off I am for the future with what’s happened the last few months.
“Conditional status on Korn Ferry opens up a door for me next year but the experience from playing Q School, from being on the number at first and second stage and getting through, that just adds another element of pressure and nerves and anxiousness that I was able to handle quite well.
“That’s an awesome feeling to take with me going forward.”
The first round of the Murray Open begins on Thursday morning and the final round will be live-streamed through SEN TV, the Golf NSW Facebook page, or www.nswopen.com.